Lomen & Company, Golovnin Bay

Lomen & Company, Golovnin Bay

by | Dec 4, 2020

Lomen & Company established a reindeer meatpacking facility in 1915 on Golovnin Bay near the Swedish Mission, about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Elim and 7.8 miles (12.5 km) southeast of Golovin, Alaska. Alaskan reindeer herding started in the early 1890s as a modest plan to import small herds of reindeer from Siberia to feed Alaska Natives. The model for the industry was based on reindeer herding in Scandinavian Lapland, and in Alaska would be managed by the U.S. Bureau of Education.

Although the first reindeer were brought to Alaska for the expressed purpose of providing a new resource base to Alaska Natives, the first private owner was the non-Native Congregational mission at Wales. After 1898, Lapp herders who had been hired to teach herding techniques had received reindeer rather than cash for their services and, after their contracts had expired in 1901, had begun to build private herds. Large scale non-Native ownership of reindeer as a commercial venture began in 1914 by the Lomen family from Nome. In 1915, Lomen & Company bought the herds from the missions at Teller and Golovin, and between 1920–1929, they expanded the operation with slaughterhouses and cold storage plants in Nome, Egavik, Elephant Point, and Golovnin Bay. By 1929, there were an estimated 400,000 reindeer in western Alaska.

The market for reindeer meat began with the decline of mining on the Seward Peninsula, the start of the Depression, and increasing opposition from the powerful lobby of cattle producers. On September 1, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt brought years of controversy to an end when he signed the Reindeer Act authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to extinguish all non-Native interest in the reindeer industry. Ownership of all Alaskan reindeer herds was transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It became illegal for any non-Native to own reindeer until 1997 when a court decision again allowed non-Natives to acquire reindeer herds in Alaska. Read more here and here. Explore more of Lomen & Company here:

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